Back in her native Brazil, Santos said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca she believes she did enough to win at least three rounds against the 125-pound champion this past Saturday in Singapore.
Santos re-watched the fight once after being cleared from the hospital, where doctors’ checked her fractured orbital bone courtesy of an unintentional clash of heads, and she felt the same way she did seconds after the bout was over.
“I think that [I won] up until the third round, when my eye was still OK, but I still managed to get her down in the fourth,” Santos said. “I ended up getting taken down in the last round, but took her down in four rounds. I think the first [three rounds] were mine. I haven’t sat down to analyze the fight yet; I have to re-watch it. But I was able to take her down in the fourth as well and control for a bit, but she got back up quickly.
“I was waiting for [Bruce Buffer to announce] my name. Deep in my heart, I was expecting to hear ‘Taila Santos,’ but that’s not the name he said. But I kept my head high. … I’m not going to say I should have won, otherwise the belt would be here with me, but what matters the most is I’m happy with my performance. I’ll get better, train more, and I’m sure this is not my only opportunity [for the belt]. I’m young and I’m sure I’ll show a lot more.”
Santos feels she has to go back and analyze the 25 minutes of action to fix her mistakes against Shevchenko, but ultimately is happy with her performance. Santos said she had “more to give,” but the eye injury “definitely” affected her “a lot.”
“When I looked to the ground [in between rounds], I could see everything normal. When the round started and I looked at her, I couldn’t see anything,” Santos said. “I freaked out, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to attack her? I can’t see anything.’ The eye could become a target for her, too. I was scared. I had to find a way. I didn’t know where to hit, so it was quite complicated. I would never quit, but I was scared.”
In the end, going five rounds with a dominant champion like Shevchenko and losing a close and somewhat controversial split decision changed the way Santos sees the flyweight queen.
“Everybody sees her as this monster, the boogeyman,” Santos said. “After I fought her, I could see she’s not all that, you know? She’s very tough and intelligent, of course, but nothing abnormal. I felt very confident. I didn’t feel any supernatural power. The way people talked about this woman, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I won’t be able to take her down.’ I imposed my takedowns and managed to do everything I wanted. I expected [more from her]. It was easy to [take her down] and get her back. I expected it to be tougher.”
Santos will undergo surgery in the coming weeks to fix her orbital bone fracture and then rehab before booking her next bout. It’s still unclear when Shevchenko will be cleared to return to action, and Santos said “it would be great” if the promotion decides to run it back.
“There’s no point fighting someone else [in a tune-up fight] if I’ve already fought her,” Santos said. “I had never fought five rounds before and went straight for the trial by fire, straight in a five-round fight with the best in the world, the champion. I’m tested already.”